MotownWriters Author Feature: Ryan R. Ennis

 

Ryan R. Ennis

Where are you from?
I was born in Royal Oak and raised in Canton Twp. Growing up, I lived in the second or third subdivision built in Canton. I remember when Canton still had farms and many wooded areas. My favorite wooded area to play as a kid is now Morton Taylor Road.

Tell us your latest news?
One of my short stories will be appearing in the latest Write to Meow Anthology, published by Grey Wolfe Publishing. It is community service anthology to support exotic and big cat rescue.

When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing as a teenager. In my high school English classes, I loved reading the short stories my teachers assigned. I decided I wanted to be a story writer. I still have the first short story I ever wrote, keeping it around as a reminder of how important determination is. My writing skills have come a long way since that first story.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Although in my early 30s I had had a few short stories published, I didn’t consider myself an actual writer until I began writing bimonthly articles for the Ferndale Friends newspaper. I wrote for that publication for over five years. At the time, I lived in Ferndale, and when I’d take a walk around town, people would stop me to give compliments about my latest article they had read. Their compliments were music to my ears: my articles were attracting a following.

What inspired you to write your first book?
The idea for my first book—The Thursday Surprise: A Story about Kids and Autism—came from children. As a progressive educator, I saw the benefits of when typical kids had interactions with the kids who were enrolled in the special education classrooms.  Consequently, I started a reading program at the school that the students and I called “buddy reading.” The Thursday Surprise is a story that shows the practice of using peer tutors in action. More generally, the book illustrates that even when students with autism spend their instructional day in self-contained or categorical classrooms, there are still options available for educators and parents wanting to include special needs children with their typical peers for at least part of the day.

Do you have a specific writing style?
I like to get into the mindset of the characters and focus on their thoughts, providing motivation for their actions. I’ve never cared for stories in which the characters seemed vague or underdeveloped. I want my readers to be engrossed in the actions of my characters.

How did you come up with the title?
The Thursday Surprise speaks to the day on which “buddy reading” occurred and on what the main character does to win over a peer who has special needs.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
There are multiple messages in my book The Thursday Surprise. One is about how trying and determination, like what beginning writers must do, can lead to success. Another is that there are great joys that come when children on the autism spectrum allow a peer into his or her world. Yet another is we all have things to learn from one another.

How much of the book is realistic?
My writing, whether fiction or nonfiction, is based on my experiences. All writing, in my opinion, is based on reality and the author’s experiences, when even an author writes fantasy fiction.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
In my opinion, good writers must engage in a lot of personal reflection as well as be keen observers of others.

What books have most influenced your life most?
Daisy Miller by Henry James, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë, and the short stories of Joyce Carol Oates. These works feature one way or another in my current book,
The Unexpected Tales of Lust, Love & Longing . . .
 
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
The writers that have most influenced me are short story writers like Joyce Carol Oates, Truman Capote, and Raymond Carver. Like them, I try to write descriptive prose that delves into the psychology of my characters.

What book are you reading now?
I’m presently reading Murders in the Mist: Who Killed Dian Fossey? Dian Fossey was an American who went to Rwanda in the late 60s to study gorillas. In 1985, she was murdered at her mountain research site. Besides fiction, I also enjoy reading true crime.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I recently read a collection of short stories called Mrs. Somebody Somebody by Tracy Winn. I liked that several of the stories were set just after WW II and that the stories were connected in their setting of Lowell, Massachusetts. In my new work, The Unexpected Tales of Lust, Love & Longing, I also have connecting stories featuring the same town and characters.

What are your current projects?
I have written two children’s book: The Thursday Surprise: A Story about Kids and Autism and The September Surprise: A Story about Kids and Autism. My most recent published work is the story collection is The Unexpected Tales of Lust, Love & Longing . . . under the name R. R. Ennis.
 
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
For several years, I belonged to the Metro Detroit Creative Writers group. The members critiqued my work in ways that helped me write clear and engaging prose. I am indebted to them.

Do you see writing as a career?
Writing is in integral part of my multifaceted career. I’m also a teacher, librarian, as well as a writer.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I suppose all writers look back upon their work and say they would like to change this or that—that’s why well-established writers like Joyce Carol Oates and John Updike (now deceased) revisited some of their better novels and came out with new editions. Always seeking to improve, I may do the same at some point.
 

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Captivated by short stories and how they gave me a sense of reading a complete work without having to read an entire book, I decided in high school I wanted to be a short story writer along with being a teacher and/or journalist. I’ve spent many hours working on my craft while experiencing the progression of technology: from toiling away at a typewriter, to being amazed at the features of a word processor, and then to becoming a laptop computer pro.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Certainly. As stated in the book description of The Unexpected—my book is “a collection of nineteen tales about characters whose personal desires and notions of romantic fulfillment take them on journeys of self-discovery, often leading to unforeseen outcomes. Start a story, any story, in this volume, and you’ll recognize the characters—their needs and longings—and be compelled to read the story through to its conclusion.”

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Yes, time factor is a major issue. When you’re a home owner, teacher, and have a part-time job on the side, it can be a challenge to find writing opportunities. Consequently, I try to write each night, even if it’s only for a half-hour, to keep myself in what I call “writing shape”—able to write productively.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
My favorite author is Joyce Carol Oates. Her short stories are masterpieces. Even when one of stories is only a few pages long, I feel like I’ve inhabited a vast landscape. She manages to engage readers with her descriptions and her character’s emotional states. I strive to do just that.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not at present. With my children’s books on autism, I traveled throughout the state to promote them.

Who designed the covers?
Thecovercounts.com

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The editing process was a challenge in that it was time-consuming. Not only did I spend countless hours reading aloud each of my nineteen short stories to ensure my prose flowed, I relied on many friends as well as a professional editor to offer their feedback and check for spelling and grammatical errors. I incorporated their ideas or suggestions as much as possible because chances are that if even one person finds what you wrote unclear, others will feel the same.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned that despite the hard work, I found the process of creating a book very enjoyable. There’s nothing like exercising the power of your imagination and dwelling in a world with characters, plots, and scenes that you’ve created.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Often, I’ve heard from friends and others that they want to write, but after composing a few paragraphs, they get discouraged because their writing is not going as easily as they thought it would. There are very few writers out there that just sit down and write great prose for hours. I prescribe to the philosophy of finishing the story no matter how bad the writing or plotting seems at first. Revision is the natural progression of writing, but you can’t revise when you have little or nothing to work with.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
To keep reading. Reading everyday has so many benefits to it—improving your memory, increasing your vocabulary, and relieving stress. It can even help you to become a better writer.
My new book The Unexpected: Tales of Lust, Love & Longing . . . are available at Amazon (paperback and kindle), Barnes & Noble, and in a variety of electronic formats at smashwords.com. Please spread the word!
 
 
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